When You Don’t Have a Maple Tree Handy…

Homemade maple-flavored syrup. Who knew? I ran across this idea in my frugal travels around the internet. It just wasn’t one of the things in my experience database. I don’t remember what we used as a child because I think that pancakes were a rare thing in our house. I do know that, when I grew up, I liked jam on pancakes better than syrup.

My local store carried maple extract in the baking aisle, so I gave it a try. It’s nowhere near the real thing. It tastes fine, easily as good as any of the maple-flavored syrups from the store. (Maybe I’m not the best judge of that, though) It is, however, quick and easy to do and there’s a bit of cost savings, too.

I used brown sugar but if you want a lighter color, use regular white sugar. Most of the recipes I found online used white sugar. One used a combination of white sugar and brown sugar and one used corn syrup as the sweetener. I think any way you do it, it will be good stuff to pour on the pancakes.

pancakes

Quick Maple-Flavored Syrup

2 cups water
4 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons maple extract

In a non-reactive pan, bring water to a rapid boil.
Mix in brown sugar all at once. Stir until it is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and stir in maple extract.
Pour into a sterilized jar and allow to stand, at room temperature, for 24 hours.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

What’s for Dinner? I Dunno

Sometimes the muse takes a day off. I can stand in front of the pantry or the refrigerator and not see anything to eat, just a jumble of mismatched items.

cookbook

To get unstuck, I refer to a cookbook or, better yet, Supercook.com.

I really like this site. I can lump some of those unrelated things from the stash and they will magically turn into dinner. Well, maybe not exactly like that. What it does is offer a number of ideas on what to do with what you have.

I tried a couple of pairings that I though were unusual. They weren’t, really. Supercook produced recipes that used my ingredients.

Sausage and cinnamon: Sausage and Apple Breakfast Casserole
Carrot, mayonnaise, and chicken: Kung Pao Chicken Wraps

I tried American cheese, lemon and banana but this stumped Supercook. Take out the banana and it found: Ultimate Backyard Burgers. YUM!

It’s fun and knocks the stubborness right out of the muse. That’s a winner in my book.

Orange Cleaners Revisited

A little over three weeks ago, I started making orange cleaners. I did two types and you can find the recipes here. They are done, and now it’s time to test them. OK, I admit to procrastinating on this. These things were actually done after two weeks. I guess I’m just not in a hurry to clean.

orangecleaner

I used the vinegar-based cleaner first. I diluted it 1:1 with water and put it into a spray bottle. Next I tried it out on a few surfaces, which included the inside of the microwave, the glass door on the toaster over, a section of granite counter-top, and the glass-top range. It worked well but it wasn’t miraculous. I didn’t expect it to be really, but it did do what cleaners are supposed to do: it cleaned. The spatters inside the microwave wiped off easily, the counter-top shines, and even the glass looks good without streaks. The things I cleaned with it are clean! Isn’t that the goal?

It does smell better than plain vinegar, so that’s a bonus in itself. I know what’s in it. That’s a huge benefit. It works pretty well. That’s the goal.

Overall, this orange cleaner can find a place in my cleaning routine.

Little Steps, Big Changes

Starting something new is overwhelming. Have you ever tried to read something that is a new subject and it seemed like it was written in Klingon? Only through systematic chipping, taking small bites, can you finally unravel the mystery.

Developing a new lifestyle is the same process. Take small steps and soon you’re changes are habit and not torture.

It’s fun to read how people live frugally. Some of their ideas are workable and will fit into my life easily. Some are a bit out there, to be kind. I draw the line at eliminating toilet paper from our home. The work involved in washing and drying doesn’t outweigh the convenience of TP. There’s also the yuck factor. Just not gonna do it.

toilet-paper-150912_1280
I’ve been in a financially tough time when paper towels were a luxury and not a part of my kitchen supplies. I could go back to that again, but I haven’t. I guess times just aren’t tough enough right now.

There are things that I do now which make me wonder why I didn’t do them all along. I spent some time yesterday making jam. My husband spent part of his day making jerky. (He makes it because he eats it. I don’t) Am I saving a bunch making my own jam? Not really, because I buy the fruit. If I could go out a pick fruit to use, then the savings would be obvious. The jerky, on the other hand, is a fraction of the price of anything we can buy.

Jars of Jam
The benefit of making things at home is that I know what’s in it. I don’t use anything I can’t pronounce. To me, that’s a big benefit. The other, especially with jam, is the reduction in waste. I reuse the jars. An empty jar from the store isn’t reusable, usually.

These are just two small steps in my overall frugal-living plan. I’ve already posted some of the recipes I use to make staples and cleaning supplies.

DIY Laundry Detergent
The Dreaded Dusting Chore
The Baking Mix Scoop
No, Really? No Poo
DIY Liquid Hand Soap
DIY Yogurt
DIY Disinfecting Wipes
5 Favorite From Scratch Recipes
Orange is the New Clean

There are dozens more that I haven’t yet tried. I’ve also abandoned some things that I tried and found they didn’t work well for me. One was my own dishwasher soap. I’ve tried a couple of formulas and I felt they didn’t do the job that a commercial product does, so I no longer make my own soap. Frugal living is not only a step-by-step process, it’s a trial and error one, too.

It’s all about the little efforts and you don’t have to learn Klingon.

Orange is the New Clean

oranges

I ran across these recipes months ago and I started saving citrus peels. They languished in the freezer until I had the containers to make the mixes. Now, it’s a go. Confession time: I didn’t have any brown sugar, so I used regular, white sugar instead. I’m pretty sure that it will make no difference in the fermentation process.

Here are the two formulas that I’m trying. Since they take 2 weeks or more to complete, I’ll let you know my results later.

orangepeels

All_Purpose Citrus Cleaner

1-2 quart jar
White vinegar
Citrus peels, chopped (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit or a combination)

Place citrus peels into jar until it is, at least, half full.
Fill jar with vinegar.
Cover jar tightly and shake.
Steep for 2 weeks, shaking occasionally. Label the jar so that you can keep track.
Strain liquid through a fine sieve. Discard the peels.
Pour into a spray bottle and dilute 1:1, if desired.
Use on sinks, counter tops, bathtubs, floors, and toilets.

citrus-2791_1280

DIY Citrus Cleaner

2 liter bottle
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp yeast
Citrus peels (at lest 2 cups, chopped)
32 ounce spray bottle

Drop citrus peels into the bottle.
Add yeast and sugar.
Fill about half full with water. Shake bottle to dissolve sugar. (About 30 seconds)
Cap loosely to allow gases to escape.
Label bottle with date and allow to “brew” for about 2 weeks, shaking at least daily.
When the cleaner is ready, strain through a fine sieve. Discard peels.
Add 1/2 cup to spray bottle and fill with water for regular cleaning.

orangecleaner

What’s in Your Pantry?

 

A well-stocked pantry saves money and time. Meals can be created quickly with what’s on hand and ingredients can be mixed and matched. Out of vinegar? Try pickle brine or lemon juice instead. No canned broth? Use a can of tomatoes with the liquid. The options are endless.

This is a list of items I usually have on the shelf or in the refrigerator.

Produce

Onions-yellow, red, white, shallots, or leeks
Celery
Garlic
Carrots
Peppers-sweet and hot
Tomatoes
Lettuce-leaf, iceberg, romaine, etc
Parsley

Dairy

Cheese-Parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, or Swiss
Milk-fresh and dried
Butter
Sour cream
Eggs

Condiments

Mayonnaise
Ketchup
Mustard-Dijon, yellow, honey
Salsa
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce-Tabasco, sriracha or other

Sweet Additions

Dried fruit-raisins, cranberries, apricots
Honey
Jam
Sugar-white and brown
Syrup-maple or other flavor

Starches

Dried or canned beans-navy, black, pinto
Rice-white, brown, wild
Pasta-spaghetti, macaroni or other small pasta
Tortillas-flour or corn
Rolled oats

Acids

Vinegar-cider, balsamic, rice, red wine
Lemon or lime juice or fresh lemons and limes
Pickles-dill, bread and butter
Olives-black and green

Baking

Flour-all purpose, wheat, unbleached
Baking powder
Corn starch
Unsweetened cocoa
Vanilla extract

Oils

Olive
Sesame
Vegetable-corn, canola, peanut

Miscellaneous

Canned tomatoes
Tomato sauce
Tomato paste
Canned broth
Frozen vegetables
Nuts
Bread crumbs
Bacon
Peanut butter
Spices
Salt and pepper

 

A Resource Free for the Asking

Vintage Photo of The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress was established in 1800 and is the oldest cultural institution in the United States. It is also the largest library in the world, containing more than 160 million items. This massive collection requires 838 miles of shelf space. Things aren’t static at the Library. Approximately 12,000 items are added daily.

Our local library can’t boast such a huge collection. It’s really very small, but they do provide computers and WiFi for no charge to any library patron.

I have a computer and an internet connection at home. I use them both daily. However, I live beyond any cable company reach so my choices for internet connection are limited and expensive. It’s one of the sacrifices that we make to live in our beautiful forest.

Texas Forest

When I want to do some research, which might require a couple of hours online to do, I head out to my local library. I can chew through my limited monthly allotment of data quickly when I spend that kind of time online. And, forget about watching videos. I’d be over the limit before I could get started.

It’s one of the resources available that requires no additional fees and it’s an important part of stretching our retirement resources. We’re not alone. In a report published in January of this year, done by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, there were 271,146 public access computers in libraries across the US, and those computers were engaged for 340.5 million sessions.

The survey also found that 62% of the responding libraries provided the only free computers and internet access in the community. While I’m thankful for the internet service we have, it is expensive and likely beyond the budget of many in our area. I’ll admit that I envy those who have unlimited, fast internet access and I hope that I will have that in the near future.

For now, it’s a blend of our service at home and that of the library. It works and it saves money. In other words, it’s a frugal choice.

5 Reasons to Scratch It

brownie and coffee

 

Why do I cook from scratch? The stores are full of wonderful ready-to-eat products, why make my own?

1) I have time
Cooking from scratch does take more time, though often not a lot more time. In the case of homemade yogurt, the time is spent on waiting. Heating the milk takes only a few minutes, but the rest of the process takes more than 6 hours. Of course, I don’t have to stand there and wait for it, I just have to not forget about it.

2) I can control my ingredients
Packaged foods contain a few ingredients that help to preserve the contents and provide a longer shelf-life for the product. I don’t have to eat those. I’m sure none of them will prolong my shelf-life.

3) Things taste better
I had a package of seasoned coating mix in the pantry. (I think it was there for a while.) It tasted like salt. There were many other ingredients listed, but all I could taste was the salt. If I want my chicken to taste like salt, I can do that myself. I can add more or cut back on one or more ingredients to make it taste like I want it to taste, even if what I want is salty.

6) It’s usually cheaper
I did a cost comparison for baking mix here. While it may not prove to be true every time, overall it is cheaper to make your own.

5) I can’t go back.
Since I started cooking more things from scratch, packaged foods just don’t taste good to me anymore. I prefer what I make.

Why, Of Course! DIY Disinfecting Wipes

Does anyone like cleaning the bathroom? We all know that doing a little each day makes the chore easier especially if there is a quick and easy way to do it. Disinfectant wipes are convenient, easy to use, but expensive. Naturally, DIY wipes are the way to go

I searched the Internet for what others were doing for homemade wipes. I found a lot of formulas. The assorted ingredients included vinegar, coconut oil, a multitude of essential oils, and pine cleaner.

Many years ago, in a Microbiology class in college, we tested some common household items for their germ-killing capabilities. A petri dish was prepared with three different bacteria. (I don’t remember what they were.) We all brought in different things to try. My lab partner brought Woolite. I brought pine cleaner. Two out the three areas on her dish were clear of bacteria after applying her Woolite. My pine cleaner killed NONE of the bacteria. So, it may not come as any surprise that I don’t use pine cleaner.

Knowing what I do about pine cleaner, I skipped any formulas that called for it. I wanted a disinfecting wipe and I have scientific evidence that this stuff wouldn’t disinfect its way out of a paper bag.

tshirt

The cloth to use for the wipes is a no-brainer. I’ve got several old T-shirts with stains that nothing on the planet will remove. They remain in the drawer until I make cleaning rags out of them. It was time to press one of those shirts into service.

Some folks used paper towels. Not only did they suggest using paper towels, they suggested sawing the roll in half. No. Not doing that.

So, in my search for a recipe, I landed on the Living on a Dime site. Unlike many of the other recipes, this one includes alcohol. It’s one thing that we know will disinfect; the jury is still out on many of the others.

WipesIngredients

Homemade Disinfecting Wipes

1 cup water
1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
2 tablespoons Dawn dish soap
2 tablespoons ammonia (optional)

Mix the ingredients together. Pour over rags until sufficiently dampened.

Frugal? That’s Funny

When did being careful with money become the fodder for jokes? How did frugality become defined as cheap? Aren’t we doing ourselves a disservice?

Too many people view being frugal as being a cheapskate. Television programs that showcase people who take the idea to the extreme reinforce that notion. The difference between frugal and cheap couldn’t be more clear. To be cheap is to focus solely on the cost of something. To be frugal is to focus on the value of what is being purchased. Sometimes the least expensive option also provides value, but not always.

I was speaking to a friend about an event that was held in another state and why I decided not to attend. When I added up the costs-the fees, hotel, meals, and airfare-I didn’t see enough value to be derived from attendance. She listened to my reasoning and determined that the reason I didn’t attend was that I couldn’t afford it. That wasn’t true, but she didn’t understand the difference between not having the money and not seeing it as a valuable expenditure.

Determining value is at the heart of frugality. Of course, we do things that save money but that’s only on the surface. I save money by making my own laundry detergent. I’ve also eliminated lingering fragrance on my clothes and I’ve reduced the amount of trash I generate by reducing the packaging that I toss out. For anyone who has to pay by the number of bags of trash they put out each week (luckily, that’s not us), this is a double whammy of savings. There is more value to homemade laundry soap than just saving on the cost of washing and that’s at the heart of frugality.

Returning to my original premise, why is actively saving money not a revered practice?caution

“Economy is the art of making the most of life.”
–George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)–

You would think that those of us who are retired, or close to retirement, would heartily embrace frugality. Alas, it is not always the case.

Baby Boomers are ill-prepared for retirement. According to TD Ameritrade, in their 2012 study Boomers and Retirement, 74% of Boomers are $500k short in their retirement savings accounts. Those who think Social Security will make the difference may be surprised to learn that the average benefit check is slightly more than $1200 per month. No one is going to live large on that. Couple that lack of savings with consumer debt and the picture is even more grim.

Can we blame it all on poor planning? A study done by National Center for Policy Analysis found that 59% of Boomers are providing financial support to their adult children, including providing living expenses, covering medical bills and paying off loans. The stars that lined up to create an economy that made this so prevalent are still being debated, but it is certainly a drain on resources in a time when Boomers need all that they can get.offspring

Many Boomers had parents and grandparents who lived through the depression. There seems to be some idea that we don’t have to employ the lessons in economy that those folks learned. Maybe that explains some of the dismal economic circumstances surrounding our generation. Thrift is a way of life and shouldn’t be reserved only for hard times. It makes those hard times easier to live through and we’ll all be better off.

Perhaps we should be quietly thrifty. Use frugal ways to get out of debt, supplement savings, acquire the money for luxury purchases, become a stay-at-home parent, or retire well. When those who would ridicule frugality notice, let them laugh. Bet they won’t, though. They’ll be asking how you did it.